Social media movements aim to honor Mollie Tibbetts

A variety of social media campaigns have sprouted up in the wake of the UI student’s death that aim to honor her memory and carry on her legacy.


Mollie Tibbetts

Christopher Borro, News Reporter

Following the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, a variety of campaigns continue to carry on her legacy.

One of these is the Mollie Movement, which encourages random acts of kindness in Tibbetts’ memory. A pair of Iowa women, Sara Jo Harvey of Waterloo and Claire Burch of Des Moines, started the movement. Burch is one of Tibbetts’ cousins.

Harvey and Burch’s campaign has been featured on news networks from San Francisco to Philadelphia as more and more people join the movement.

“We were both overwhelmed with emotion,” Harvey said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “This movement has grown into something we could have never imagined. What started as a few Iowans quickly grew into [hundreds], now thousands of people across the world.”

The pair’s community Facebook page, @TheMollieMovement, had 5,494 likes and 5,575 follows at the time of publication. Harvey said the group’s posts have reached more than 50,000 people worldwide.

Many of those participating in the Mollie Movement leave small pieces of paper at the site of their good deeds, called kindness cards.

“Kindness cards are little slips of paper you print out that encourage others to pay it forward,” Harvey said. “Whether it be with a small candy bar, or paying for the next person’s bill, or even tipping more money than you usually would on your bill … in hopes to bring smiles to people’s faces worldwide in honor of Mollie’s name, who will then pass it on to the next [person].”

Burch and Harvey worked with Joy VanLandschoot of Live Now Designs, a photography and design store in Brooklyn, Iowa, to distribute T-shirts.

“The Sunday after Mollie went missing, I met with Jake Tibbetts, Mollie’s brother, and Morgan Collum, Mollie’s cousin to create a MISSING shirt in efforts to find Mollie soon,” VanLandschoot said in an email to the DI.

VanLandschoot said her business distributed more than 20,000 fliers and business cards in the first week alone after Mollie went missing. During this time, she said a comment by a search volunteer gave her the idea to start Mollie’s Movement: Finding Mollie Tibbetts, @molliesmovement on Facebook, which currently has 16,915 likes and 20,956 follows.

Ever since Tibbetts’ body was found, the tagline for Mollie’s Movement changed to Finding Others and now focuses on providing resources that raise awareness for other missing individuals.

VanLandschoot has made new “#TheMollieMovement” T-shirts with proceeds going toward a scholarship fund at BGM High School in Brooklyn; the move has raised more than $15,000.

Another Mollie-inspired movement is the #MilesforMollie campaign, spread largely via social media. Sarah Chicchelly, a UI graduate student in the Epidemiology Department, is an avid runner who has ran in six marathons and is training for a seventh.

“I pretty much exclusively run by myself these days,” Chicchelly said.

Chicchelly said she learned about the Miles for Mollie Movement primarily through social media.

“I personally dedicate my miles to Mollie … by just continuing to do what I do and not let fear dictate where I run …” she said. “Women should be able to run whenever, wherever they want and not feel unsafe.”

VanLandschoot said she had never met Tibbetts, but through learning about her, she fell in love with her and her family. She said she was proud to have grown up in Brooklyn and that the community members will strive to be like Tibbetts in their daily lives.

“Her light can never fade in our hearts and will continue to shine through in the actions of others,” she said.